The state’s tax credit programs offer little for the mom-and-pop shops that form the core of our Main Streets. But that could be about to change.

The House of Representatives is expected to vote as soon as Tuesday on a much broader economic development bill that would provide up to $500,000 a year in tax credits to merchants who occupy vacant storefronts in downtown areas. The promise of new jobs would help a retailer’s case, but it’s not required. Other factors could come into play: anticipated pedestrian traffic, synergy with nearby businesses, a commitment to improve the storefront, matching funds from a landlord or community.


Jon Hurst, president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, says his group didn’t propose the idea. But he’ll now lobby to ensure the measure gets through the Senate as well. Essentially, Hurst says, these tax credits could provide crucial rent assistance for a fledgling business, helping to fill prominent gaps in Main Streets across the state.

Meanwhile, Hurst waits for another measure to be added to the economic development bill: a 2018 sales tax holiday.

The Legislature just agreed to make the sales tax holiday a permanent summer tradition, as part of a package deal that included a minimum wage increase and paid family leave. That so-called “Grand Bargain” bill doesn’t take effect until 2019. However, Hurst says his group was promised a sales tax holiday this year as part of those negotiations, after two summers without one. House Speaker Bob DeLeo just pledged he would bring a 2018 sales tax holiday measure to the House floor. So if you’ve got any big-ticket items on your shopping list, you might want to wait a few weeks.